Editorial Draws Responses in Favor of IT Farmsourcing (9 letters)

After spending 90% of his words convincing us that he supports "farmsourcing," Don Tennant asserts that sending IT work to rural areas of the U.S. because they're more familiar than offshore locales flies in the face of lofty goals -- multiculturalism and globalization ["IT Inbreeding," QuickLink 53377]. Face it: The only reasons to send IT services offshore are to lower costs and to use the investment in another nation to help lever open new markets. I simply don't believe that any offshoring decision is made to support multiculturalism and globalization.

On the other hand, one of the hidden costs of offshoring often noted in Computerworld is overcoming differences in language and culture. If the gentleman from Optimal Solutions Integration who was cited in the editorial sees an advantage in farmsourcing, I believe he is demonstrating a solid understanding of the total cost picture. As far as farmsourcing possibly being "unhealthy inbreeding," the U.S. is the most multicultural and multiracial nation on earth. Is offshoring really the only way we can interact with these diversities?

Tom Unkefer

IT management consultant

"Rustic"? "Hinterland"? "Inbreeding"? That's three derogatory references based on silly stereotypes that many people on the coasts seem to have about the rest of the country.

Tim Hack
Underwood, Iowa

At the risk of being labeled a "livid offshore outsourcing foe," I must admit that I disagree with Tennant's comments. I agree that we have a world economy that cannot be ignored if a business is to grow and prosper. However, IT isn't the best place to gain exposure to different cultures and global marketplaces. Make that the realm of the marketing people, not the IT group. A company's IT organization contains processes critical to the firm's success. To go overseas and expose the company to possible problems with leakage of critical information or misinterpretation of a project's goals and processes seems ridiculous when a suitable alternative exists in the U.S.

Allan C. True
Senior computer engineer
Grand Haven, Mich.

I work for a multicultural company and enjoy the opportunities that having access to such a culture brings. However, many of my company's clients are very focused on events and cultures in the U.S. Telling them that their business is suffering because they don't have exposure to Chinese or other cultures is laughable at best. Just because outsourcing is good for one company doesn't mean you should disparage other companies that choose not to go that route. To do so is to become a multicultural elitist incapable of seeing value in nondiversity. This is every bit as destructive as the ethnocentric business person that Tennant disparages.

J. Alan Brown
Systems engineer
Rising Fawn, Ga.

So Tennant thinks companies are outsourcing overseas because they want to increase cultural awareness and get diversity points? How absurd. It's about the cost savings.

Andy Jensen
Portland, Ore.

Many companies outsource back-office functions, which aren't viewed as adding value to the companies' success. In these situations, having cross-cultural relations won't add to the knowledge base of the corporation at all.

Doran Boroski
Elmhurst, Ill.

As an academician-turned-IT-manager, I appreciate the concept of diversity; it is something we work hard at in the university environment. And diversity is totally appropriate and desirable in the global marketplace of ideas. However, I'm at odds with Tennant on two points: 1) When I call for computer support, I'm looking for facts, not ideas, and I want an understandable dialect on the other end of the telephone, no matter where the support person is sitting; and 2) for those of us living here in what is an economically underdeveloped region of the U.S., the concepts embedded in "farmsourcing," as you call it, make complete sense, especially since our economy was based largely on tobacco, which is going the way of our furniture and textile industries.

Furthermore, farmsourcing is not necessarily an exercise in inbreeding; a strong regional IT industry would attract staff from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations, particularly if centered around a university as Catherine White proposes. We have students from 48 states and 60 countries; I'd say that represents significant diversity.

Jack Brinn
Interim CIO
East Carolina University
Greenville, N.C.

Fundamentally, either one is opposed to globalization and outsourcing of American jobs, or one is not. I am opposed. The downside of globalization is a dilution of individual cultures and beliefs. I understand that we live in a global economy, but we do not have to live in a diluted global culture. I live in the most powerful and economically stable free society in the world, and I want to keep it that way.

I see the outsourcing of our most critical and important jobs as moving the economic and intellectual power base out of our country. What a wonderful thing it would be to offer a "Silicon Valley opportunity" to Americans who by choice or birth live in an area of the country that was not blessed with wealth but by agriculture, property and community. Farmsourcing sounds like a great way to provide jobs to fellow Americans.

Marcia Wilson
Reno, Nev.

I question whether offshore outsourcing is the best vehicle for gaining exposure to other cultures and markets. I'm sure there are many ways to acquire diversity, if diversity is what your customers, shareholders and employees need, but I don't think companies should go out and globalize themselves just for the sake of ivory tower ideals. Also, there's a whole lot to be said for a business plan that values the culture that it operates in.

Cathy Taddei
Portland, Ore.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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